Thursday, August 19, 2010

First congressional hearing on language in education

this is a note i posted in my three egroups - TEDLOOP (Teacher Education and Development), MLEPhilippines, and Talaytayan

I attended the congressional hearing yesterday where the English Only bill of Gullas and the MLE bill of Gunigundo were presented. It was an SRO and there was a certain feeling of excitement in the air. Kudos to Cong. Gunigundo for giving a powerful and convincing presentation (which Nap Imperial described as “pamatay”). Also kudos to USec Yolly Quijano for her bold assertions that DepEd favors the MLE bill because it develops the cognitive abilities of the pupils leading to acquisition of reading and math/science skills. She also cited several MLE experiments in a number of schools all over the country. The Chair of the Basic Education Committee, Cong. Salvador Escudero III facilitated the discussion quite dexterously. The Bicolanos should be proud of him.

Cong. Magi’s presentation highlighted the Thomas and Collier study, the economic benefits of MLE and PNoy’s speeches extolling the value of MLE. Later, there were many congressmen who manifested their support for the MLE bill in spite of the fact that during the last congress, majority of them supported the Gullas Bill (something that Gullas would harp on every now and then). Especially supportive was Cong. Henry Teves from Region 8 who said that he survived early schooling (with Tagalog as MOI) simply because his mother (a native of Laguna) gave him extra help at home but he pitied his classmates who had to struggle with an unfamiliar MOI. He said that when he heard about the Lubuagan study two years ago, he asked DepEd to implement MLE in his district. He was proud to talk about the MLE initiatives in his area. Cong. Fatima Dimaporo spoke saying that she was particularly impressed with the idea that MLE develops the child’s cognitive skills. The congresswoman, a young charming lady probably still in in her 20s, said that her L1 is English which was reinforced by her schooling experience in Brent. However she admitted her feelings of regret for not learning her ancestors’ languages–Maranaw and Binisaya.

Cong. Gullas’ main argument was that his bill had previously gained the support of the majority and that it responds to the failing English proficiency of our children. He also cited our pupils’ dismal performance in Trends in International Math and Science Study. Unknown to him, NISMED had a study attributing our students’ poor performance in TIMSS to the non-use of the mother tongue in teaching science/math concepts. Joining Gullas were Cong. Eulogio Magsaysay and Cong. Carmen Cojuangco. I was quite disappointed with our congressman from Pangasinan (Cojuangco) who said that the pupils in her area (5th district) knew little of Ilocano anymore and so they should just focus on learning English (and let go of the little Ilocano they still have!) At the end of the hearing, Gullas and his camp capitulated and said that they were willing to work for a melding of the two bills.

The two camps already agreed on the use of mother tongue from pre-school to grade 3. Differences to be discussed are :

1. MOI for grades 4-6 . Cong. Magi said grades 4-6 will be a transition period and MT should still be used to scaffold learning but that Filipino/English would be introduced gradually. Cong. Gullas insists that English should be introduced abruptly.
2. MOI for high school. Cong. Magi proposes that Filipino and English should be used as MOI in high school while the Gullas camp insists that English alone should be the MOI.

We hope that whatever compromise between the two bills the two camps come up with, it will be something that would best facilitate learning and the development of cultural/linguistic pride among our young ones. We hope too that the groundswell for MLE would continue, especially when it is debated on in the plenary. In spite of the presentation of research reports saying that MLE promotes language learning, many congressmen still mistakenly think that MLE retards the acquisition of the English language.

Somebody in the Senate (Guinguna, Recto Escudero?) should now immediately file a Senate counterpart of the MLE bill.

Let’s keep hoping, praying and working for the best. Will inform you about the schedule of the next hearing so that you can be there too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PNoy's New Education Team

The only familiar name is Dr. Yoly Quijano. I know her to be a sensible and low profile (not into grandstanding) leader. She has been with us in promoting MTBMLE being a major implementor of the Lingua Franca Project. I hope that during her stint as USEC she can push strongly for BESRA (financed by a $200 loan from WB but was stalled since 2005 because of lack of push from GMA's administration).

Googling the other DepEd appointees showed that they are from the private sector, mostly products of Jesuit-run universities (working with a boss who virtually spent all his schooling life in DLSU). They are new to the basic education sector and will need sometime to know the intricacies of basic education, as a bureaucracy, a sector and a discipline with its own history and worldviews. I am pretty sure that their children have been educated in the private school system. It will take some time before they would see and understand the culture within our public school system. I hope they will try their best to immerse in the system so that they will earn their right to lead and not be treated as perpetual outsiders.

They will take their seats during a time of massive hemorrhaging of our workforce. Flights are canceled because 25 PAL pilots have left the country and more are posed to leave. There was misforecasting of weather because our experienced meteorologists are gone. Not too long ago we read of hospitals closing down due to lack of doctors. And so on. I wonder how corporatist neoliberal minded leaders would address this concern. It would be interesting to see what kind of market oriented solutions they will craft together to address a problem caused by the same worldview that they subscribe to.

Their presence in DepEd would reinforced the managerialist orientation to our education system. It has its advantages since it tends to promote efficiency, accountability and bottomline kind of thinking. However such orientation when pushed to the extreme tends to be pro-globalist, prescriptive (accdg to global/western standards) and sees learners more as labor inputs. It does not place much value on strengthening cultural identities and local knowledge, contextualization of education to local realities and the formation of critically minded citizens. These concerns are marginalized in a pro-market corporatist educational system.

My only hope is the fact that PNoy's new usecs most likely come from a business group that in the past advocated for transformative solutions like MTBMLE and school-community partnerships. I wish them all the best.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

about sexuality education

All the brouhaha about sex education may be caused by the fact that English is not our first language. If we translate "sex" to Tagalog or any Filipino language, it would refer to coitus or the sex act. For one, how would you translate sex education to Tagalog? For most native English speakers, the word sex has a broader meaning and they have long used it in academic discourse. However, the UNESCO's framework on sex education uses the term "sexuality education." I think that's a more appropriate term. The material has been around for sometime and interestingly its curriculum is much broader than sex. It covers friendships, courtship, family relationships, physiology, gender issues and the like. DepEd should have referred to it before coming out with the mislabeled sex education. It could have been called gender, family and sexuality education. I also hope DepEd is not copying everything from that UNESCO's curriculum. It is very western in its assumptions. It should be situated into our culture and context.

A while ago, I was talking to Julie, a laundry woman with seven children. She said that she needed some money to have their flooring repaired. It sagged due to the recent typhoon. She is slaving herself to death just to provide for the basic needs of her children. Her husband was recently hit by a jeepney while negotiating the highway driving his padyak which he uses for collecting junk materials. During summer Julie sends her kids to take in summer jobs so that they would have money to buy for their enrollment needs. Now she is worrying about the future of her eldest daughter who is supposed to enter college next school year. She was asking if there is a job for her that would support her college education. Earlier, she was relating how her son would go to school without enough money to buy for food. For lunch, he would buy a cup of rice and ask for a little sabaw as his ulam. Many times he would walk to school so he can use his meager allowance for a more urgent need.

I asked Julie if she ever said sorry to her kids for not providing them their needs. She said she couldn't do it but she said that she is definitely repentant (nagsisisi) that she bore so many children that she cannot adequately support. Seeing the daily saga of Julie and millions of families like hers makes me wonder why there is such a strong resistance towards sex education. It is like depriving children of information that can save their own bodies and from having a future like Julie's.

The UNESCO's document harps on the danger of AIDS and STDs as the main reason for sexuality education. Tho such diseases are also on the rise in the Philippines, I think the more pressing reason for sexuality education is to develop responsible parenting. Anyway, only a small percentage of the youth becomes vulnerable high risk sexual behavior. Majority would become normal parents.

I think we all should open our eyes to increasingly difficult lives of large families around us. We should not just say they live in poverty but we should be aware how poverty is translated in their daily lives, specifically in ways that affect their health and the education of their children. I am sure that most of such parents, like Julie, would also say that how they wish they planned their families well. That should make institutions like churches, schools, media and others apologize or at least feel sorry for not doing their job in enabling young people acquire responsible parenting skills. This would be a good starting point for a program like family/gender/sexuality education.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

12 years of schooling

I am happy that during his campaign period, PNoy included in his platform the use of the mother tongue in education. This would certainly help facilitate his other platform -- the "every child a reader" program since it was found that children learn to read more quickly and with comprehension when texts they read are in their mother tongue (of course since it is the language that they understand the most). Aside from facilitating acquisition of reading skills, MTBMLE also makes education truly inclusive.

But what dismays me about his education platform is the first in the list-- implementation of the 12 years of schooling. Even my little kid who heard the news from TV queried why such move when we have a shortage of teachers, classrooms, desks etc? When I asked the proponents of longer schooling about the reason for such move, the only reason they can give is that we are the only of two remaining nations that have 10 yrs of schooling. The rest of the nations have 12 years. They cannot give any other reason. It does not make sense that we make such billions of pesos move when we only want to be like the rest. The only reason I can think of is that in our marketized system, education provides business to many.

Installing longer years of schooling presupposes that schooling is the only source of knowledge. Learning happens informally and nonformally and DepEd's role must increasingly towards the certification of learning. Such is the specific function given to BALS. Unfortunately due to the low passing rate of A&E exams (cannot go beyond 30%), they now require that every exam taker should go thru the BALS modules. What they should do instead is to make their assessment tools more attuned to the language and knowledge construction of their takers. Make the exams less dependent on paper and pencil tests and I am sure there will be more passers. Unschooled individuals are often streetsmart. They can understand their world and are able to function at work using their own Math and management skills. However exams are constructed in a very schoolish language and form.

Instead of longer schooling, what DepEd should do is to increase the quality of our ten year schooling. If that does not work then address the length of schooling. Extending the years of schooling of poor quality education would make education more oppressive to children and their family.

And if they are really bent on becoming like the rest of countries in the world with 12 years of schooling, then they should at least provide a means for acceleration, accreditation and equivalency so that learners who are able to acquire knowledge from non-school resources would not need to go endure the 12 years of schooling and have other options to gain that piece of paper called diploma.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

De-obssessing ourselves from English

As I travel around and talk to various people about the issue of language in learning, one thing I found so glaring and quite worrisome is our pathological obsession towards English. I agree that English provides a great advantage to many. It would enable you to communicate to more people in the world and make sense of the language of the Internet.

However, we have gone far beyond seeing English language as a tool to be deployed according to our purposes. We have become its slave. We hear ourselves saying, "edukado siya kasi magaling siya mag English." It does not matter if that person does not pay his taxes and maltreats his employees.

We also hear, especially the way people describe TV personalities, "Wow, ang talino niya kasi magaling mag-English at may slang pa!" Of course, those young stars were raised in America. We also make parody and overly criticize people who speak "carabao English." I see it though as an honor to the carabao. I find people who speak the carabao English as the most creative and empowered. It's like a teacher who said, "that child recitates a lot." It might sound reprehensible to her supervisor but at least that teacher was able to invent a new verb form that might be included in a dictionary someday (like the recent word "mentee"). At least that teacher put words to her thoughts. Most people would simply remain silent listeners and passive spectators refusing to engage in a thoughtful discussion simply because they are afraid that they might be criticized for their grammar and pronunciation.

It is our obsession for English that we began to believe that the purpose of schooling is for people to learn English. The streamer that we often find hung at the gates of many schools announces-- "We are an English speaking campus." This indeed speaks about the frivolous expectation of parents who would sacrifice a lot to pay the expensive tuition fees of such schools.

Our fixation for the English language is tragically manifested by the insistence of authorities to use the language as the medium of instruction. I can't still understand the logic of such policy. English is used as medium of instruction for intellectually demanding subjects like Math and Science for the expressed purpose of strengthening the children's knowledge of the language. Science and math virtually became language classes. It does not matter if at the end the children were not able to comprehend, analyze, critique, compare, synthesize, extrapolate the rich concepts found in math and science.

Our pathological obsession for the English language can be partly explained through our history of institutionalized education. The introduction of free mass public school system by the Americans as recorded in legal documents was said to be a strategic means to assimilate the Filipinos into the American culture. The main tool was the imposition of English as the only medium of instruction. Children from day one in school had to listen to wonderful and stimulating stories told in the English language. They were forced to write their thoughts and feelings using the same language. And yet since English was not the language of their soul their output, if there was any, was not comparable to that of the native English speakers. I am not discounting the fact that there are Filipinos who have learned to write well in their second language. But that came about after much struggle. And oftentimes, those writers or scholars are not as articulate or even literate in their local language.

The use of mother tongue based multilingual education provides a fissure to the seemingly indestructible English Only narrative. It provides us with the opportunity to be diagnosed of our pathological obsession and grieve over our silenced childhood and of the lost opportunities to speak and write from our soul. The grieving and healing process would result to regained courage and confidence to rectify the past and ensure that the 22 million Filipino children in school today would learn in a kinder and more humane environment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UN Report on Phil Education and MLE

The article below appeared in today’s paper. It highlights how we are trailing behind in providing quality and inclusive education. The report points to poverty and regional disparity as the main reasons for the sad state of education. As a remedy, it prescribes that we make it as an urgent priority the use of the local language in education.

In our MLE lecture-forum at Valenzuela City last Monday, the Div Supt verbalized her sense of awe in seeing the passion and sense of idealism among the MLE teachers that we trained last summer. It must be unusual for her to see the usually docile grade one teachers voicing out their excitement over MLE (before a big crowd) and giving concrete and intelligent recommendations in making the curriculum MLE friendly. One teacher said that MLE indeed is effective in developing thinking skills among her pupils and for the first time she is assured that her pupils are indeed learning.

After that meeting I came to realize the value of MLE as an avenue for education reform mobilization. MLE has become not a mere rational choice for the best teaching method or innovation. It departs from the usual technicist/program-oriented discourse on education reform that is often top down or “pinatulo” instead of bottom up or “pinatubo”. MLE is about acquiring a new set of mindset and pedagogical/cultural orientation that enables each teacher to develop creative and contextualized approaches. It is indeed encouraging to find that MLE has the capacity to stoke passion and touch the yearning of every Filipino teacher and education stakeholder for inclusive/quality education and also for cultural/linguistic pride.

Ched Arzadon

Inquirer Headlines / Nation

UN: RP trails Tanzania, Zambia in education
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: January 20, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—The United Nations has warned that the Philippines is in danger of leaving the poor behind when it comes to their education.
Noting an “absence of decisive political leadership,” a major UN report on education on Tuesday said the Philippines was in “real danger” of missing its target of providing universal primary education by 2015.
The 2010 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, which was launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at UN headquarters in New York cited the Philippines as a “particularly striking example of under-performance” in educational reforms as its current polices were failing to make a difference in improving the education of the poorest Filipinos.
“Education indicators for the Philippines are below what might be expected for a country of its income level … With an average income four times that of [African countries] Tanzania and Zambia, it has a lower net enrollment ratio,” the report said.
“The unfavorable comparison does not end there. Whereas Tanzania and Zambia have steadily increasing net enrollment ratios, the Philippines has stagnated,” it said.
RP could miss its goal
“Given the country’s starting point in 1999, achieving universal primary education by 2015 should have been a formality. There is now a real danger that, in the absence of decisive political leadership, the country will miss the goal,” the report added.
The Global Monitoring Report (GMR) is produced annually by an independent team of UN experts and is published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The report assesses the global progress towards the six EFA goals to which over 160 countries committed themselves in 2000.
These goals include expanding early childhood care and education, providing free and compulsory primary education for all, providing learning and life skills to young people and adults, increasing adult literacy by 50 percent, achieving gender equality by 2015, and improving the quality of education.
In the portion “The Philippines—leaving the marginalized behind,” the 2010 report said “extreme poverty and regional disparities were at the heart” of the mismatch between the Philippines’ income level and its poor educational outcomes.
It noted that, in 2007, the number of out-of-school youth aged 6 to 11 “broke through” the one-million mark and “there were over 100,000 more children out of school then than in 1999.” It added that around one-quarter of those entering school drop out before Grade 5.
Deeply marginalized
“The net enrollment ratio was 92 percent in 2007, which is comparable with countries at far lower levels of average income, such as Zambia, and below the levels attained by other countries in the (East Asia) region, such as Indonesia,” the GMR said.
“Why have countries that were so close to universal net enrollment at the end of the 1990s failed to go the extra mile? One factor is the difficulty in extending opportunities to certain regions and parts of society,” it added.
The report said that this happened to countries like the Philippines and Turkey that faced “problems of deeply entrenched marginalization.”
“In the Philippines, marginalization is strongly associated with poverty and location, with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and some outlying islands falling far behind,” the GMR said.
Low investment
“It is evident in the cases of the Philippines and Turkey that current policies are not breaking down inherited disadvantage. One contributory factor is the low share of national income invested in education,” it added.
The report noted that the gap separating the poorest 20 percent of Filipinos from the rest of society was “far wider than in most countries in the region.”

“Those aged 17 to 22 in the poorest quintile average about seven years of education—more than four years fewer than in the wealthiest 20 percent. Data on school attendance provide evidence that current policies are not reaching the poorest,” the GMR said.
“Around six percent of 7- to 16-year-olds from the poorest households are reported as not attending school or to have ever attended. Extreme economic inequalities fuel education inequalities, notably by pushing many children out of school and into employment,” it added.
Deep fault lines
The report said regional data also reveal “deep fault lines” in educational opportunities within the country.
“Nationally, about six percent of those aged 17 to 22 have fewer than four years of education. In the best-performing regions—Ilocos and the National Capital Region—the share falls to one percent to two percent. At the other extreme, in the ARMM and Zamboanga Peninsula over 10 percent fall below this threshold,” the GMR said.

“The disparities are driven by a wide array of factors. The impact of high levels of poverty is exacerbated by conflict in Mindanao, and by the remoteness and wider disadvantage experienced by indigenous people in the Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga,” it added.
The sound of howitzers
To give a “human face” to the conflict in Central Mindanao and its ill effects on education in the region, the report included the story of 13-year-old Muhammed, a refugee living in a tent on the grounds of Datu Gumbay Piang Elementary School in Maguindanao.

“Most of the children come to class to escape the dismal living conditions in their tents. But there is no immediate escape from the destruction and violence they have witnessed,” the report said.

“When the children are in class, they are either lethargic or very nervous because [evacuees] often hear howitzers being fired not far from [them],” it added.
Quoting an evacuee who works in the school, the report said: “‘Students are often absent because they spend hours lining up for rations and water at the pump or because they’re sick.”

Given these problems, the GMR said Filipino authorities faced “difficult policy choices if the Philippines is to achieve universal primary education by 2015.”

“Far more weight has to be attached to reaching marginalized populations and providing them with good quality education. Social protection and conditional cash transfer programs, such as those in Brazil and Mexico, could play a vital role in combating child labor and extending educational opportunities to the poor,” the GMR said.

The report added that another urgent priority was the use of local language when it comes to teaching in indigenous areas.

“The diversity of the challenges sets limits to what the central government can do. Regional and sub-regional authorities need to develop and implement policies that respond to local needs. However, the central government could do more to create an enabling environment,” the GMR said.

“The education system suffers from chronic shortages of teachers and classrooms, rising class sizes and low levels of learning achievement. Addressing these problems will require an increase in the 2.1 percent share of national income directed towards education in 2005—one of the lowest levels in the world,” it added.

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